So on Tuesday night I went to the Brit awards. Up in one of the hospitality suites at the O2 with a bunch of other MPs and some music industry bods, quaffing champagne and eating wild mushroom ravioli, salmon mousse, and dinky little canapÃÂ©s – except I don’t drink and I’m vegan, so I kind of sat there watching other people do that. And enjoying ‘the very best that British music has to offer’ ”â except I didn’t really think it was, so I kind of sat there watching other people do that too.
Adele has a flawless, powerful voice. So does Florence. So does little Ed Sheeran, in a wimpy sort of way. And Bruno Mars (also little) performed very nicely, and Olly Murs and Rihanna did the singing & dancing at the same time thing, and they did it with panache. Polished, professional, perfect, every single one of them. Not a note out of tune, not a dance step out of time. Everything went to plan. They’d all practised very hard.
Oh, and there was Coldplay. They had fireworks, and laser beams bouncing off a giant mirror ball. They “put on a good show”. It wasn’t much of a song, but at least it wasn’t one of the really annoying ones. There was Noel Gallagher too, who played it safe. I saw him do a much better version of the same song in the Jools Holland studio a few months ago; it was a real racket then, this was a bit pedestrian.
And then there was Blur, who, so we are told, were out of tune, out of time, under-rehearsed, shambolic, shabby, even ‘a disgrace’. I thought they were bloody brilliant. Maybe it was just the relief of seeing a band that sounded like a proper live band, flaws and all. I’m not a massive Blur fan by any means, and yes, the sound was pretty bad, but when Graham Coxon did his fuzzy, choppy guitar thing, and his weedy little “Oh my baby” bit on ‘Tender’ I almost wanted to cry, because in Brits land guitars aren’t meant to be distorted, and singers are meant to be able to sing. And dance down the runway, not be all hunched up over a mike stand or, like Damon Albarn, leaping around like an un-choreographed lunatic, getting all tangled up in his leads.
Have people become so accustomed, so attuned to perfection now, that anything else seems bad? Like listening to music on vinyl with hisses and scratches? Or a magazine picture that isn’t airbrushed or photoshopped to utter blandness?
Or like cars… I used to drive a 1962 Volvo P1800 (the one from ‘The Saint’ but a bright red one, imported from California). It was left-hand drive, with incredibly heavy steering, brakes you had to stamp on very hard, and wipers that barely worked. But it was beautiful.
These days cars are perfect. Everything works. Everything is made easy. And they are really, really boring. They look the same. They drive the same.
And that’s the thing with Adele. She has the power, she gives the performance, of a top of the range BMW or Lexus. She’s not going to hit a wrong note, or falter halfway through a long one. She’s very reliable. She does have A Very Good Voice. And the songs have choruses and catchy bits and key changes, and do all the things ”Ëhit’ songs are meant to do. But she doesn’t have those little moments, those breaks in the voice, the sudden huskiness, the unselfconscious soaring into an amazing falsetto, the great bits that you get from the real soul singers. And you don’t get the weird musical things you got from the Motown production wizards.
Maybe that’s what most people want from music these days? Something glossy and perfectly made, that provides a soundtrack to get them from A to B in life, but doesn’t surprise them, doesn’t require too much attention, doesn’t make them wonder what the hell is going to happen next? Or was this year just particularly tedious? Will we see Enter Shikari on next year’s Brits?!